Ministers have criticised Boris Johnson for saying he would not allow “Kosovo-style social cleansing” in London, amid a row over housing benefit reforms. Many London MPs are concerned the £400-a-week cap will force people out of the city and the Conservative mayor said that would not happen “on my watch”.
Vince Cable accused the mayor of using “inflammatory language” while No 10 distanced itself from the comments. Mr Johnson later said his remarks had been taken out of context. The row came as MPs debated planned changes to housing benefit, announced in last week’s Spending Review, which it is estimated will affect about 17,000 people in London if introduced in full.
Several London-based MPs have attacked the proposed new caps, due to come into effect in April and their likely impact on the poorest people living in the capital.
Mr Johnson, who faces re-election in 2012, told BBC London on Thursday morning that “the last thing we want to have in our city is a situation such as Paris where the less well-off are pushed out to the suburbs”.
“I’ll emphatically resist any attempt to recreate a London where the rich and poor cannot live together,” he said.
“We will not see and we will not accept any kind of Kosovo-style social cleansing of London. On my watch, you are not going to see thousands of families evicted from the place where they have been living and have put down roots.”
A number of coalition MPs, many representing London constituencies, have concerns about the cap and have called for a rethink on this and other plans such as the 10% proposed cut in housing benefit for people on jobseeker’s allowance for more than a year from 2013 onwards.
Earlier this week Labour’s Chris Bryant talked about people “being socially engineered and sociologically cleansed out of London” – a remark criticised by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as deeply offensive to people who had witnessed ethnic cleansing in other parts of the world.
– BBC News